August 24, 2003
the elected autocrat
A. J. Philip
The Future of Freedom
by Fareed Zakaria, Penguin Viking, New Delhi. Pages
287 Rs. 395
SOME see in Fareed Zakaria
a future US Secretary of State. Son of Rafiq Zakaria and Fatima
Zakaria, this thirty-something editor of Newsweek International has
already earned a niche for himself in US intellectual circles. His
series of articles before, during and after the Iraq war, conformed,
by and large, to the thinking in the Bush administration but they
were nuanced enough not to lose sight of the pitfalls of the war.
politics of nationalism
India: A National Culture?
edited by Geeti Sen. Sage, New Delhi. Pages
294. Rs 850.
THIS book is about cultural
perspectives of nationalism. Nationalism may be largely political,
but is based mainly on cultural symbols and traditions such as
religious icons, ancient societies, linguistic and oral narratives,
art, sculpture, painting, and so on. National pride is predicated
upon all of these.
eulogy to books that heal & sustain
M. L. Raina
Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books
by Azar Nafisi. Random House, New York. Pages 368. $23.95
literary and part political commentary, I commend this book on three
counts. It proves teeth-gnashing feminists wrong about the alleged
baleful influence of male writing. It indicts Iranian clerics for
suppression of women in the name of Islam. And, what is to me a very
special pleasure, it celebrates the great works of literature and
recognises their power to heal and sustain.
plucked from everyday life
The Rupa Laughter Omnibus
edited by Ruskin Bond. Rupa. Pages 180. Rs 295.
who has known Ruskin Bond will recognise his real-life persona in the
spirit of the book. It is the ideal companion to lift your spirits –
almost like a Wodehousian ‘pick-me-up’ – on a gloomy day. Gentle
and languid with a laid-back humour; it brings a chuckle or a smile; but
is never slapstick.
identity of North-East Sikhs
The Other Sikhs: A View from Eastern India
by Himadri Banerjee, Manohar, New Delhi. Pages 279. Rs 550.
out of four Sikhs live outside Punjab. Eleven thousand Sikhs in Assam
constitute one per cent of the population. Out of them, four thousand
are Assamese-Sikhs. Though they cannot speak or write Punjabi, they are
more or less conscious of the five Ks.
look at life in a slum
by Mukunda Rao. Penguin Books. Pages 274. Rs 295.
world is a world of Indira slum of Bangalore. However, it is not
presented through the eye of Chinnamani, even though the title suggests
that. The narrative voice shifts and identifies itself with different
personae active in the slum: Chinnamani (11-year-old bright schoolboy),
his mother Parvathi (daily wage-earner at construction sites), his
father Thangamani (vegetable hawker), Velu (Chinnamani's friend, a
Rajnikant fan), Asaithambi (the beggar-boy), Shiva (a scooter mechanic),
Yellanuna (the canteen owner), Rukmini (the coquette), Isthri Selvan (Thiruvalluvar
fan who irons for a living) the carpenter, Rowdy Muthu (the ruffian) and
Laxman (lottery-ticket seller).
of folk arts
Rajasthan an Oral History: Conversations with Komal Kothari
by Rustom Bharucha. Penguin, New Delhi. Pages 358. Rs 325.
is a land that is rich in history. It has been home to most of the
Rajput and Jat kingdoms. In ancient times it had a warm climate and
was free of forest cover, which were conducive to the growth of the
to Gods, exploited by men
From Sacred Servant to Profane Prostitute: A History of the Changing
Legal Status of the Devadasis in India, 1857-1947
by Kay K. Jordan. Manohar Publishers. Rs 500. Pages 184.
a famous Kannada story by Ananda, The Girl I Killed, a devadasi
from a respectable landlord family offers herself to the traveller–narrator
who is collecting information on a nearby temple. It is a mark of
respect for her father’s revered guest from the city. Shocked by the
inhumanity of the practice, he convinces her that it is despicable only
to find her drowned in a well the next morning.
in human development
The SEWA Movement and Rural Development: The Banaskantha and Kutch
by Daniel W. Crowell. Sage, New Delhi. Pages 236 Rs 280
Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) is not merely a
non-governmental organisation (NGO) that has organised informal
workers. It is a movement embracing activism, feminism, labour
unionism and the innovations like SEWA Bank and the SEWA Academy.
Freedom was the
song of her life
Sarojini Naidu: Nightingale of India
by Nimeran Sahukar. Rupa, New Delhi. Pages 63. Rs 195.
capture Sarojini Naidu in words is a task not easy to perform. This
poet, politician, and humanist, who dedicated her life to the cause of
the country’s freedom, opted for politics in place of poetry as the
focus of her life. Yet she is called the Nightingale of India, because
of the rhythmic and melodious nature of her poems.